Minutes of the Union of European Academies of Agriculture, Food and Nature (U E A A) Steering Committee Meeting
by Visio conference from Tbilisi Friday 11 March 2022 , from 10.00 a.m. Paris time (Approved by the Steering Committee on 29 June 2022)
Attendees: Guram Aleksidze (Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences); Michel Thibier (French Academy of Agriculture), Zenonas Dabkevičius (Lithuanian Academy of Sciences), Ioan Jelev (Rumanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Vilem Podrazsky (Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Baiba Rizva (Latvian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Kerstin Niblaeus (Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry), Simone Orlandini (member of the Scientific-Technical Committee of Academy of Georgofili, Italy), Evi Arachoviti (Great Britain, Innovation for Agriculture).
Absentees: Elena Horska (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Science), Ieroslav Gadzalo (National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine), Maria Salome Pais (Portugal, Lisbon Academy of Sciences) and Tomas Garcia Azcarate (National Association of Agricultural Engineering, Spain).
- Welcome address by President. Approval of the minutes of the 10 December 2021 meeting;
- Election of a new “Observer” from England;
- International Conference on “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies
in Europe and Perspectives”. Tbilisi, Georgia. 27-28 May 2022;
– Prof. G. Aleksidze
- Situation on “Best Abstracts” (January-February);
– Prof. G. Aleksidze
- Update on UEAA Newsletters;
– Prof M Thibier
- Report on the E U New Forest Strategy;
– Dr K Niblaeus
- Report on the Gene Editing meeting;
– Prof. M. Thibier
- Information about International Conference in Slovakia (May);
– Prof. E. Horska
- Organization questions:
– Approval of next SC meeting (zoom).
- Close of the meeting.
1. Welcome address by President. Approval of the minutes of the 10 December 2021 meeting
The President of the UEAA, Professor Guram Aleksidze welcomed all members of the Steering Committee. He shared the message from Elena Horska that she could not attend the Meeting. The president read out some passages from the official address, which was sent to the National Academy of Ukraine on behalf of UEAA. He also shared his attitude in regards to Russia – Ukraine war, drew parallel with the 2008 war in Georgia, and added that at present Russian troops are in a 40-km distance from the capital city of Georgia, and that Russia occupies 20% of the Georgian territory. He also said that the Union of European Academies supports National Academy of Ukraine and Ukrainian people; one good example of it is that Romanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences offered their assistance to Ukraine to transport Gene bank and keep safe in their country.
Among the members of the meeting, Prof. Michel Thibier said, French Academy held a special meeting dedicated to this problem with participation of Ukrainian Ambassador in Paris, to discuss how to support people of Ukraine. The next participants who spoke in support of Ukraine was Ioan Jelev (Romanian Academy), also Baiba Rizva, Latvia, who said they collected money and sent to their colleagues, scientists who wanted to participate in the conference and that they can do it free from any charge. Kerstin Niblaeus, said the members of Swedish Academy discussed the situation in Ukraine. Before moving to the next problem on the Agenda, Head of the meeting, Guram Aleksidze, asked the participants to approve the Agenda of the Meeting, which had been sent to them prior to the meeting. The Agenda was approved unanimously and the meeting proceeded moving to the next issue.
2. Election of a new “Observer” from England, Evi Arachoviti
President introduced Dr. Evi Arachoviti – a candidate to be elected as an observer and asked her to present herself to the SC Members.
Evi Arachoviti has joined Innovation for Agriculture (IfA, UK) as Head of Policy and Social on March 2019. Before joining IfA she was Head of Knowledge Transfer and Training and Head of Quality of Life in Rural Areas and Diversification of Rural Economy, in the Managing Authority of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food. She also draws experience and expertise from being Researcher in the Standardization, Inspection and Certification Authority of Greek Agriculture and Research Fellow in the Agricultural University of Athens. She also answered the questions of the Committee members. The President Guram Aleksidze asked the participants to the meeting to support Evi’s candidacy and the she was unanimously elected.
3. International Conference on “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives”. Tbilisi, Georgia. 27-28 May 2022
Prof. Guram Aleksidze spoke about some organization problems of the Conference which emerged in connection with pandemic and other external factors. He said that the invitations and detailed information about the Conference would be sent to the participants soon. The date of the Conference -May 27 and 28 was also decided. The meeting participants referred to the problem of the format of the Conference- whether it would be held on-line or in-person. Baiba Rizva expressed her doubts re possibility of travelling. M. Thibier shared his colleague’s position, other members also agreed with him and said that they should be ready to organize it on-line.
Prof. Guram Aleksidze informed that the Conference proceeding, abstracts and full texts of the articles would be published by the Academy. Baiba Rizva inquired if a digital version would be available, and he President Aleksidze responded that it was possible.
4. Situation on “Best Abstracts” (January-February);
Prof. Guam Aleksidze suggested holding a discussion around the submission of the scientific Abstracts. He named a few abstracts which had been submitted already by European academies, but also added that the number of the abstracts is still low. Michel Thibier added that each member academy should sent at least one abstract, and that more academies had to be encouraged to participate in this process. Another point is, he added that the recent abstracts sent from the French academy was a session presentation, though, the next one could be an abstract of a scientific article; he also suggested that abstracts should be sorted according to disciplines. Vilem Podrazsky, Czech Academy, asked whether the abstract should be of an already published one, or a new one. The answer is both, either one or the other way as long the references of Abstracts already published are clearly referred to. The same holds true for a given session of one Academy with the date of the given session. Simone Orlandini stated that the rules and instructions in regards to preparing, submitting and publishing of Abstracts should be uploaded on UEAA website. Everybody agreed with this (This has been done the following days).
5. Update on UEAA Newsletters;
Prof M. Thibier discussed the problem of who would write the next Newsletters. He mentioned that the authors of the previous newsletters were Kerstin Niblaeus and himself and asked who wishes to write the next ones. Evi Arachoviti said she could contribute and prepare the article for March, though time was short. Simone Orlandini, stated that Italian Academy would be responsible for the April addition; Ioan Jelev, Romanian Academy, said he could prepare newsletter for May and Zenonas Dabkevičius for the June issue.
6. Report on the E U New Forest Strategy.
Kerstin Niblaeus referred to the recent Newsletter (February 2022) regarding the EU and forestry issues. The New Forest Strategy as well as the Biodiversity Strategy have been adopted by the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers has given its opinion on the strategies. Neither the strategies nor the Council Conclusions are legally binding but nevertheless important as policy documents. The Forest Strategy was criticized by the Ministers, many expressed the views that UEAA put forward in its statement and in its meeting with the forest team of DG Agri, pointing out that the scientific basis was patchy and biased, not taking into account the vast pool of knowledge about forest management in the member states with their different kinds of forests.
Now the focus will be on legislative proposals that the EU Commission will put forward to be discussed and decided by the Council of Ministers in parallel with the European Parliament. It is important to keep track of the timetable for the decision processes regarding these legislative acts. one proposal that is already being discussed in the Council of Ministers, prepared by a ad hoc working group with representatives for the member states deals with “deforestation”. The objective is to prevent products that come from or have caused unsustainable forestry from entering the EU market. There could also be repercussions on forest management in the EU.
Another important process going on right now is the Commission working group for Nature and Forests which is supposed to define important concepts such as “primary forests” and “old growth forests”. The expected outcome is guidelines, i.e. non binding but the same concepts appear in legally binding documents and could have considerable consequences for forest management.
The way to influence these processes is to speak to the ministries responsible and national representatives in the European Parliament.
When some representatives of the UEAA had a digital meeting with the forest team of DG Agri in the EU Commission in December it was agreed to have a new contact in April. Vilèm suggested a larger group from the UEAA this time so we will try to arrange this.
The Commission will set up a Biodiversity Platform for stakeholders. The Swedish Academy for Agriculture and Forestry was encouraged by the Swedish Environment Ministry to apply to be selected to this platform. We have understood that the chances are slim for an organization from one member state but would be much higher with a European such as UEAA. It will be possible for UEAA to apply to be a observer,
The Steering Committee supported this idea as well as a new meeting with the Commission forest team.
Kerstin Niblaeus said the Swedish Academy has set up a committee to prepare input to the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP 2027/2028.
In order to influence the Commission input should be given during 2024 and the time until then used to discuss and prepare contributions.
The Steering Committee agreed to discuss this issue with the aim of setting up an “electronic working group” at its next meeting.
7. Report on the Gene Editing meeting
The UEAA Electronic Working Group on Gene Editing met with the relevant office of the EU Commission by a Zoom meeting on Monday 14 February. This was a follow up of the publication of the work produced by this group on the UEAA web site on 3 January 2022 and after the letter sent by the President of UEAA Guram Aleksize to Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (DG Santé) on January 5, 2022. The team of that office in Brussels was led by Mrs S. Heinimaa.
A communique about this meeting has been posted on the UEAA web site on 1st of March 2022. In brief, it was a frank and useful discussion out of which the conclusions were as follows:
- For Crop Plants: a new public consultation will be launched in April/May 2022 (on plants and not on animals); the office will then complete the “impact assessment” that will be followed by a proposal to the Commission for summer 2023. She invited UEAA to give its input and to be active at the national levels and also to explain what the techniques are all about.
- For Farm Animals, the situation is very disappointing, no move in the EU regulation to be expected for the next 2 or 3 years at least because it is stated by the Commission that there is a lack of data and that more data are needed, which leads to the paradox that “ there is a need for further research but EU cannot invest in such research” without excessively strong and limiting constraints which means close to nil, while foreign countries move ahead swiftly.
8. Information about International Conference in Slovakia (May);
The issue was not considered because E. Horska was not present
9. Organization questions: Approval of next SC meeting (zoom).
President Guram Aleksidze proposed to organize a SC meeting in June, and the General Assembly Meeting will have to be held in the fall, He suggested that it could be in October, in Slovakia.
Kesrtin Niblaeus told the Committee that the Swedish Academy has started to plan its program for the year 2023 and she suggested that it might be a good idea to have a similar approach for the UEAA and start laying down its program for the year 2023 at the next SC meeting this year.
The members of the Steering Committee agreed with the decision.
10. Closing of the meeting.
The President Guram Aleksidze thanked the SC members for their contribution with a fruitful work of the Meeting.
The participants also gave a positive evaluation to the meeting and said the information they shared was important and much needed, and that all items included on the agenda were also covered successfully.
End of the meeting 11.45 h (Paris time)
Minutes approved by the SC members at the meeting by Visio of 29 June 2022